Question: Is any reward (thawab) given when one performs a voluntary fast?
For a person who does not have a day or days to make up, it is very reward-deserving to observe a nafilah (optional, voluntary) fast. It was declared in hadith-i sharifs:
(Even if an earthful of gold were given to a person who observes voluntary fasting for a day, it still would not be the requital of that fast.) [Ibn Najjar]
(Whoever observes voluntary fasting secretly for a day, Allahu ta'ala will grant him His Paradise.) [Hatib]
Question: If one wants to fast every month after Ramadan, on which days should one fast?
It is highly meritorious to fast three days every month. It is stated in hadith-i sharifs:
(Fasting three days in every [lunar] month is as reward-deserving as fasting the whole year.) [Bukhari]
(Ibrahim 'alaihis-salam fasted three days in every month. Allahu ta'ala, in turn, gave him reward as if he had fasted all his life. And He bestowed upon him strength and vigor as if he had eaten and drunk all his life.) [Bayhaqi]
(Whoever fasts three days every month is as if he fasted all his life.) [Muslim]
(Whoever fasts three days every month, hatred in his heart will disappear.) [Bazzar]
(Whoever fasts three days every month, the rust of his heart will be removed.) [Nasai]
Besides, it is good to fast on the 13th, 14th, and 15th days of every lunar month, which are called Ayyam al-Beed. It was said in hadith-i sharifs:
(Whoever fasts three days in a month, let him fast on the 13th, 14th, and the 15th days.) [Nasai]
(He who fasts on Ayyam al-Beed every month attains reward as if he fasted the whole year.) [Nasai]
Question: What are the virtues of fasting in the month of Dhul-Hijjah? On which days should we fast?
The month that contains the Feast of Sacrifice (Eid al-Adha) is called Dhul-Hijjah. The virtues of acts of worship done on the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah are many. Some pertinent hadith-i sharifs are as follows:
(Fasting on the initial days of Dhul-Hijjah equals one year's fasting. Spending one night of it doing righteous deeds [such as busying oneself with acts of worship, knowledge...] equals spending the Night of Qadr doing righteous deeds.) [Ibn Maja]
(Seven hundredfold reward is given in return for deeds done on the first ten nights of Dhul-Hijjah.) [Bayhaqi]
(He who fasts on the first nine days of Dhul-Hijjah attains reward each day as if he freed a hundred slaves from his lawful property or as if he gave a hundred horses to fighters in the way of Allah or as if he sent a hundred camels to the Kaaba for sacrifice.) [Riyad-un-Nasihin]
(Shame on him who is deprived of the goodness of these ten days! One should spend especially the ninth day [Arafa] fasting; the benefits in it are countless.) [Tanbih-ul-Ghafilin]
(Whoever fasts on the first nine days of Dhul-Hijjah, the reward of a year's fasting is recorded for him for each day.) [Abul Barakat]
(The first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah equal a thousand days in virtue. The Day of Arafa, on the other hand, equals ten thousand days.) [Bayhaqi]
(In the sight of Allah, there are no deeds more precious than the ones done on the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah. During these days, perform much tasbih, tahmid, tahlil, and takbir.) [Tabarani]
[Tasbih: saying Subhan-Allah,
Tahmid: saying Alhamdulillah,
Tahlil: saying La ilaha ill-Allah,
Takbir: saying Allahu akbar.]
The virtue of the first ten days
When our master the Prophet stated that good deeds done on the first ten days of Dhul-Hijjah were more precious than the ones done in other months, the Blessed Companions said, "O the Messenger of Allah, are they more precious than even jihad in the way of Allah?" Our master the Prophet said in response:
(Yes, they are more precious than even jihad, yet the jihad of a person is more precious who takes part in a war without withholding his life and property and becomes a martyr.) [Bukhari]
Hadrat Abu ad-Darda stated:
"One should fast on the first nine days of Dhul-Hjjah, give a lot of alms, pray and seek forgiveness much, for Muhammad 'alaihis-salam said, "Shame on him who is deprived of the goodness and blessings of these ten days." Those who fast on the first nine days of Dhul-Hijjah will have fruitful lifetimes. Their property will increase, and their households will be protected from disasters. Their sins will be forgiven, and their rewards in return for good deeds will be multiplied many times. They will submit their souls easily at the time of death, and their graves will be illuminated. Their rewards will weigh heavy on the Mizan, and they will gain higher grades in Paradise" [Shir'a].
Question: What is the significance of fasting on the Day of Arafa?
It was declared in hadith-i sharifs:
(A fast observed on the Day of Arafa is equivalent to a thousand [voluntary] fasts.) [Tabarani]
(Fasting on the Day of Ashura is equivalent to a year's fasting. Fasting on the Day of Arafa is equivalent to two years' [voluntary] fasting.) [Tanbih-ul-Ghafilin]
(A fast observed on Arafa [Day] is equivalent to freeing two thousand slaves, sacrificing two thousand camels, and giving two thousand horses for the fight in the way of Allah.) [Tanbih-ul-Ghafilin]
Question: What is the virtue of fasting in the months of Rajab and Sha'ban?
Rajab is one of the four months that have to be esteemed. Our master the Messenger of Allah would place a high value on the month of Rajab and supplicate, "O my Lord, render Rajab and Sha'ban blessed for us and let us reach Ramadan." It was declared in hadith-i sharifs:
(Haram months [the months that have to be esteemed] are Rajab, Dhul Qi'dah, Dhul Hijjah, and Muharram.) [Ibn Jarir]
(Whoever fasts on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in haram months, the reward of two years' acts of worship is recorded for him.) [Tabarani]
(It is highly meritorious to fast one day and to eat the next in haram months.) [Abu Dawud]
(Seek forgiveness from Allahu ta'ala very often in the month of Rajab, for Allahu ta'ala has servants whom He sets free from Hell in every minute of the month of Rajab. Besides, there are such mansions in Paradise that only those who fast in the month of Rajab will enter them.) [Daylami]
(Allahu ta'ala forgives those who fast in the month of Rajab.) [Ghunya]
(Whoever fasts for one day at the beginning, for one day in the middle, and for one day at the end of holy Rajab, the reward as if he fasted the whole of Rajab is given to him.) [Miftah-ul-janna]
(He who fasts for one day for Allah's sake outside Ramadan gets away from Hell as much as the distance a good racehorse travels in a century.) [Abu Ya'la]
(Rajab is a great month. Allahu ta'ala multiplies good deeds many times in this month. Whoever fasts for one day in the month of Rajab attains a reward as if he fasted for one year. Whoever fasts for seven days, the gates of Hell are closed to him. Whoever fasts for eight days, the eight gates of Paradise is opened to him. Whoever fasts for ten days, Allahu ta'ala grants him what he desires. Whoever fasts for fifteen days, a caller says to him, "Your past sins have been forgiven." In the month of Rajab, Allahu ta'ala made Nuh 'alaihis-salam get on the ship, and he spent the month of Rajab fasting. He also ordered the people with him to fast.) [Tabarani]
(Whoever fasts for one day with taqwa [piety, abstention from what is prohibited], the days during which fasting is performed will start to talk and say, "O my Lord, forgive him.") [Abu Muhammad]
The month of Sha'ban
Our mother Hadrat Aisha states:
(I never saw the Messenger of Allah fast in any month more than he did in the month of Sha'ban. He sometimes used to fast all of Sha'ban.) [Bukhari]
Upon being asked why he was fasting more frequently in the month of Sha'ban, our master the Messenger of Allah answered:
(Sha'ban is a very virtuous month, but people are unaware of it. Deeds are presented to the Lord of the worlds in this month, and I want my deeds to be presented while I am fasting.) [Nasai]
Some hadith-i sharifs concerning this topic are as follows:
(The most virtuous fast after Ramadan is the one observed in the month of Sha'ban.) [Tirmidhi]
(Allahu ta'ala prepares a place in Paradise for the one who fasts for three days in Sha'ban.) [Ey Oğul İlmihali]
Those who have weak constitutions should not fast after the 15th of Sha'ban and should prepare themselves for the fast of the holy Ramadan, which is obligatory to observe. However, those in good health can spend most of, even the whole of, Sha'ban fasting.
The Night of Barat
The Night of Barat is the 15th night of the month of Sha'ban. That is, it is the night when the 14th day of Sha'ban is over (the night preceding the 15th day of Sha'ban).
It was stated in hadith-i sharifs:
(Spend the night of 15th of Sha'ban performing acts of worship and its day fasting. Allahu ta'ala declares on that night, "Isn't there anyone to seek forgiveness, so that I shall forgive? Isn't there anyone to ask for sustenance, so that I shall give sustenance? Isn't there anyone who has trouble, so that I shall grant health and well-being? Anyone can ask for anything, so that I shall give it." This state lasts until daybreak.) [Ibn Maja]
Question: When fasting on the Day of Ashura with the intention of making up for a missed fast, if a person is obliged to break the fast because of an illness or the like, does he/she have to perform qada (only making up for it) or kaffarat (expiation) for it?
If we have a day or days to make up, we have to make up for them. If we do not have, since that fast is counted as a voluntary fast then, it is wajib to observe it again on another day.
Question: I do not know precisely how many make-up fasts I have to observe. For this reason, if I make such an intention "I intend to observe the latest fast that I missed" for each voluntary fast I observe, is it permissible?
It would be better.
Question: Is it appropriate to break a voluntary fast without any reason whatsoever?
It is sinful to break a voluntary fast for no reason. If one breaks it, one has to make up for it.
Question: If a person cannot find anything to eat or cannot be bothered to prepare a meal, is it permissible for him/her to fast?
It would be very good.
Question: Should we fast on the 14th or 15th of Sha'ban?
You should fast on the 15th of Sha'ban.
Fasting on the day of Nawruz
Question: Since it is makruh to fast on the day of Nawruz, if a person who habitually fasts on Mondays or Thursdays observes a fast when Nawruz coincides with these days, is it makruh?
No, it is not makruh.
Question: If one fasts on alternate days, which is called sawm-i Dawud, and these fast-days coincide with a Saturday or any day on which it is makruh to fast, is it permissible to fast then?
There is no religious obstacle. This way of fasting is the most virtuous one.
Question: Is there a kind of fast called silence fast?
There is not.
Question: If one makes intention for a voluntary fast after the imsak time (the time when prohibition on eating begins) but decides not to fast before dahwa (middle of the duration of the fast), is it wajib on him to make up for it later?
Question: If the 15th of Sha'ban happens to be a Saturday, can we fast only on this day?
It must be observed along with the preceding or following day.
Question: Is there a religious obstacle to observing a fast only on Saturdays?
It is makruh to fast only on Saturday.
Question: Why is it not allowed to single out Saturday to observe fasting for one day only?
Scholars differ about whether it is sunnat or makruh to fast only on Friday, so as a precaution it is better not to fast only on Friday. However, it is stated in a hadith-i sharif that fasting should not be performed only on Saturday. Its reason is not explained. Saturday is an important day for Jews. It may have been stated so in order for us not to be like them. There may be other reasons as well.
Question: If one does not have any make-up fasts, is a make-up fast that one observes counted as a voluntary fast?
Question: Could you provide us with information about the virtues of observing a voluntary fast for an event, e.g., an examination, or when we are going somewhere we are afraid of or to gain an auspicious result from an event we are in fear of?
Fasting, being in a state of ablution, and performing dhikr (remembrance) certainly have benefits and uses. Even if you do not have any make-up fasts, when you make intention for a fast, it is more appropriate to intend to make up for a missed fast.
Question: It is declared in a hadith-i sharif, "He who fasts six days in the month of Shawwal becomes as sinless as the day his mother bore him." That is, is it counted, in a sense, as an accepted, genuine repentance (tawba-i nasuh)?
No, it is not counted as repentance. Repentance (tawba) is to abandon sins. In other words, it is not to commit sins anymore. Those who fast six days in Shawwal do not have such an intention; they will keep committing sins. They are only earning reward by fasting, and their sins are forgiven as much as their rewards. Besides, sins herein refer to venial sins, not grave ones. Their grave sins are not pardoned. Other sins that involve human and animal rights violations are not forgiven either, unless reconciliation is made with the wronged people or their inheritors by compensation. In order to attain rewards in return for a voluntary act of worship, one must not have shortcomings in one's faith and obligatory acts of worship, must refrain from sins and make repentance, and must intend that one is doing that deed as an act of worship. All sins of a person who performs ablution are forgiven, too. A hadith-i sharif says:
(He who performs ablution will have all his sins pardoned.) [Muslim]
This is exactly the same as fasting in Shawwal. Such a person will be purified from venial sins.
Question: If we attend an invitation while fasting, is it sinful to break our fast?
When one attends an invitation, it is not allowed to break a Ramadan fast, a make-up fast, and an expiatory fast. One can break only a voluntary fast. (Mawkufat)
When one attends an invitation while keeping a voluntary fast, it is not sinful to break it. One should go to the invitation of a fellow Muslim to gladden his/her heart and not to sadden him/her. Our master the Prophet said to a person who attended an invitation but did not break his fast, "Though your friend has incurred expenses for you, you are still saying, 'I am fasting.' Eat now, and fast a day in its place later on" (Dara Qutni).
He again said:
(Let him who attend an invitation break his [voluntary] fast, providing that it is not a Ramadan fast or a make-up fast or a votive offering.) [Tabarani]
(Whoever breaks his voluntary fast for the sake of his brother-in-Islam, the reward of a thousand days' fasting will be recorded for him. When he makes up for this fast, the reward of two thousand days' fasting will be recorded for him.) [Shir'a]
A voluntary fast must not be broken after Islamic midday without an extreme necessity. It is declared in a hadith-i sharif, "A person who is observing a voluntary fast has a choice until midday" (Tabarani).
Question: Is it makruh to observe a make-up (qada) fast on Friday?
It is mustahab (meritorious, commendable) to observe a voluntary fast on Friday. That is, there is no religious obstacle to it. So is the case with a make-up fast. But since some scholars say that it is makruh to keep a voluntary fast only on Friday, it is more appropriate not to fast only on Friday in order to follow all scholars. If one fasts out of necessity, it will not be makruh.
Informing others about your fasting
Question: It is said that it will be ostentation and cause us to lose the reward of our fasting if we say that we are fasting when people ask. Is it true?
No, it is not an act of ostentation, nor does it cause us to lose our reward for fasting. It is better to perform voluntary acts of worship secretly. They should not be disclosed unless one is forced to do so. We should give alms secretly, and we should try to offer voluntary prayers secretly, too. However, it will be better to do them openly when their being seen is beneficial to others and serves as an exhortation. In fact, ostentation is something that is related to the heart. That is, it is to perform acts of worship in order to show off. If they are done to earn the good pleasure of Allah, there is nothing wrong even if people see them.
Breaking an act of worship after commencement
Question: The following is written on your website: "If a person who is performing a voluntary namaz or a voluntary fast breaks the namaz or fast with or without a valid excuse, it will be wajib upon that person to make up for it, because when one starts a voluntary act of worship, it is wajib to complete it." Isn't it in direct contradiction to the hadith, "A person who is observing a voluntary has a choice until midday"? If a person has a choice either to break or complete a voluntary fast, the statement "It will be wajib upon that person to make up for it" is wrong, because why is it a sin not to complete a deed for which one has the right to exercise a choice? If it is wajib to complete an act of worship after commencement, then what is meant by "has a choice" that is mentioned in the hadith-i sharif?
We should learn the explanation of the hadith-i sharif from the books that deal with fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). It will be wrong if we ourselves interpret it. It is written in the fiqh books:
It is wajib to reperform a voluntary namaz that has been broken, while it is fard to reperform a fard namaz that has been broken. It is haram to break it without justification. (Uyun-ul-basair)
It is permissible to break a fast when there is a need. When one starts an act of worship, it is haram to break it without a valid excuse. There are eight excuses that allow one to break a fard (obligatory) fast:
2. Setting out on a journey,
3. Duress, that is, being compelled by a cruel person,
6. Hunger [to the extent that one cannot bear],
7. Thirst [to the extent that one cannot bear],
8. Old age. (Bahr-ur-raiq)
The existence of any of these excuses makes it allowable to abstain from the fast. A person with any of these excuses may observe the fast if he/she is able to do so.
The purport of a hadith-i sharif about being on a journey is as follows:
(He who keeps the Ramadan fast while traveling is like the one who breaks his fast while being settled.) [Nasai]
Actually, it is a grave sin to break the fast while one is settled (not a traveler). When hadith-i sharifs are uttered without conditions, it is understood that they contain some conditions. A traveler is advised not to fast if fasting causes trouble while traveling or if it hinders his/her acts of worship and work. If he/she is comfortable during a journey, fasting is better. Therefore, a judgment must not be made regarding the ruling in a hadith-i sharif without knowing its explanation.
If a voluntary fast is broken with or without an excuse, it is wajib to make up for it. If a woman begins menstruating while she is performing a namaz and observing a fast, she leaves the namaz and the fast. It is wajib upon her to make up for (them if they are) voluntary fast and namaz. If her menstruating begins after she has made intention for a fard namaz, she does not make up for that namaz, because her fard namaz is forgiven. (Radd-ul-mukhtar)
The latest time for intention for a voluntary fast is around an hour before the time of early afternoon namaz. One who has not eaten or drunk anything until that time can make intention for a fast and observe it. Or one can decide not to fast and leave it. That is, one has a choice about it. However, when the time for intention expires, one is not allowed to break the fast without a valid excuse. Excuses that permit a person to break a voluntary fast are as follows: being a guest, being a host, and other reasons that necessitate breaking a fast. When one breaks a voluntary fast for such reasons, it will be wajib to make up for it.